Physical illness is not the primary determinant of happiness for older adults, as found in a recent study. Instead, it was found that psychosocial factors have the highest influence on quality of life.
Prof. Ladwig and colleagues from the Cooperative Health Research studied thousands of men and women in Germany who were between the ages of 65-90. The study lasted nearly 30 years and had 3,600 participants!
The study aimed to learn more about “subjective well-being” – or how people define their well-being on a personal level. This study was prompted to learn more about the “age paradox” – the observed high levels of well-being and positivity that seniors exhibit, even despite them often experiencing declining physical health, and opportunities for social interaction.
Results showed that factors such as living on a small income, lack of physical activity, having multiple health conditions, and sleeping problems did affect feelings of well-being in both men and women.
However, feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress had the strongest negative impact on an individual’s subjective well-being. For women, the factor of living alone also had an especially profound impact on their well-being.
This shows that rather than factors like health conditions and income, feelings of contentment in seniors are formed by factors like companionship, support, and calm.
So, how can we increase those factors, and in turn, increase our well-being and quality of life?
Companionship and support are crucial to our well-being. Humans are social creatures interactions with others can be paramount when it comes to happiness.
Spend time with family and friends, get involved in a church group or social club, or consider adopting a pet. Don’t forget, these social interactions don’t have to be face-to-face, if you’ve got grandkids away at college – ask them to video chat!
Developing a routine is a great way to encourage feelings of calm and contentment. Choose a time to wake up every day, make your bed, give yourself time to spare when running errands, and have a set time to go to sleep at night. This provides a sense of predictability and can help reduce stress levels.
For diabetics in particular, sticking to a daily routine is crucial. Testing your blood sugar, as well as, taking your medications on schedule are musts. Be sure to check your blood sugar regularly. Blood sugar that is too high (or too low), or blood sugar that is constantly spiking and falling will have a definite impact on how you feel.
Take a few moments every day to simply rest and breathe. By practicing stress-reduction techniques, we can lower the toll on our minds and bodies. Meditation and prayer are two more ways to calm your spirit and relax. Or give yoga a try to combine exercise and meditation in one. Keep at it until you find relaxation techniques that work for you!
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You are what you eat?” Well, new research suggests that you may also “feel what you eat.” A collaboration of studies published in Clinical Psychological Science emphasizes the way nutrition can impact mental health. Certain foods can improve mood, sleep, and feelings of happiness!
Because avocados contain choline, when you eat them, your body’s levels of serotonin are increased. Serotonin impacts the entire body, helping with sleeping, eating, and digestion. It is considered a natural “mood stabilizer” and helps reduce depression, and regulate anxiety. Avocados are not just a super food, but a super-happy food!
Research has found that drinking coffee in the morning is tied to increased levels of energy, as well as feelings of kindness and pleasure. Coffee enjoyed with friends or family is connected to feelings of affection, friendship, and satisfaction. When had only occasionally a cup of coffee brings on calm and tranquility.
Spinach contains folic acid which helps to reduce fatigue and improve mood. Spinach is also rich in iron which helps deliver oxygen to your cells, giving the body energy on a cellular level. Spinach is also rich in Vitamin C and magnesium which are crucial to the production of serotonin and dopamine – two brain chemicals responsible for making us feel happy and joyful.
The moral of the story for seniors’ happiness is: eat well, find ways to de-stress, and above all, spend time with family, friends, and community.